sbuk online event – Miscanthus: How can the construction sector benefit with its use?

Did you know that Miscanthus has water vapour permeability properties compatible with that in traditional construction and sequesters carbon (around 130 kg CO2eq/m3)?

Join us on Wednesday 6th July, 7pm (GMT) as we discuss the building potential in construction of this bio based material.

The talk will be led by PHD Research student, Fabrice Ntimugura (University of Exeter) and will be followed by a Q&A session.

Register here

📸 Terravesta

msc module review: sustainable materials in the built environment – cat

As part of my MSc in Green Building – Centre for Alternative Technology (cat.org.uk) at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) we had great fun on the “Sustainable Materials in the Built Environment” module in May 2022 experimenting on site with clay, lime, hemp, straw, miscanthus, cork, rammed earth and other novel materials.  It is a fantastic group of students from many of the different MSc and MArch courses taking part bringing great energy, passion and imagination to solving the Environment Emergencies. 

The experimenting involved building a hempcrete arch, using miscanthus to create “cob” bricks and sourcing alternative fibres from the surrounding landscape. 

Straw bales featured as many students’ favourite material with excellent tutoring from Kit Jones and John Butler who had students building Nebraska method and CUT method straw bale walls. 

Highly recommended to anyone to anyone wanting to learn more about practical solutions for our changing planet.  Inspiring tutors, site, history and students comes together to make for an extraordinary experience.  

by Andy Baylis – https://jengodesign.com/

Building to net zero: costing carbon in construction – Environmental audit committee report

This report stresses that “from residential to commercial buildings, the UK’s built environment is responsible for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) warns that to date there has been a lack of Government impetus or policy levers to assess and reduce these emissions. With climate deadlines looming, urgent action is needed.”

Our members contributed significantly to this report, as did other organisations allied in this movement.

SBUK demonstrated through analytical reporting and data, that natural materials are a robust solution to the problems that the built environment is striving to overcome.

Strawbale UK’s evidence is available to download here. The EAC report is available to download here

straw construction in the uk – technical guide 2022

We are very excited to announce that the ‘Technical Guide’ for Straw Construction, is now out!

The Technical Guide is a vital component within the EU-INTERREG funded project, ‘UPSTRAW’, the aim of which is to promote the benefits and good practice of constructing with straw.

Authored by The School of Natural Building (SNaB), who were the UK representatives for UPSTRAW and SBUK its sub-partners, it is essential for self-builders, contractors, planners, structural engineers, finance/insurance personnel and anyone interested in building with straw!

The Technical Guide is FREE and available to download here

SBUK step review 2022

Under the guidance of course leader, Hubert Gruber, our SBUK Director, Kit Jones, participated in the latest edition of the ‘STEP’ programme.

STEP (Strawbuilding Training for European Professionals) is a strawbuilding course (online & practical) which is curated and led by qualified and professional builders. We, at SBUK, endorse the STEP curriculum and will utilise it to widely spread the knowledge of strawbale construction to the built environment.

Hubert is the co-President of the European StrawBale Association and Chairman of the Austrian StrawBale Network. He has extensive experience as a course leader in strawbale construction education and as a strawbale designer and builder.

Kit is a qualified and experienced carpenter, and works with bio-based materials: straw, timber, hemp, lime and earth. His appraisal is a welcome continuation of SBUK’s aim: to promote straw bale building and best practice within the sector.

Read the review here

‘the last straw’

In Winter 1993 a publication entered the built environment, etching its name as a hallowed journal for straw as a construction material – The Last Straw.

Emanating from USA the first issue had a national/regional take on straw construction: structural testing in Tucson; construction of an eight sided strawbale house; the Genesis farm in New Jersey; training with school children, and venturing further north in Canada for fire testing.

It came as no surprise that as the world woke up to the benefits of working with this material The Last Straw went further afield and brought together the incremental parts of natural construction: other types of natural building materials, building codes/regulations, finance (insurance and mortgages). The more recent issues also took on an international perspective with news from across the globe too (issue #4 features modular systems at ‘The Great Straw Conference’ in Cirencester in England, 1993).

Our members were evangelical about The Last Straw, not just as a networking hub, but for its notable sources of information. Sadly the last edition was published in Spring 2017.

Imagine then, our joy in late 2021, as The Last Straw resurfaced on Instagram to announce that it was returning!

For those of you that do not possess these collectors’ items, worry not – click here for the newsletter and the archive of their journal. Welcome back, The Last Straw!

UK’s First ever EPD for Straw!

For the first time this gives an accurate assessment of the environmental impact of straw production in the UK. This was made possible by the European Up Straw INTERREG funded project.

Led by The School of Natural Building this Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is hugely significant as it not only stamps its importance in the use of straw as an insulation material but will enable the construction sector to cite it as a relevant tool in lowering carbon emissions in the built environment.

Well done all at The School of Natural Building! More info is here

Households declare

Energising our buildings has never become more important than now.

The savvy among you would have been content to be up to speed with an ‘EPC’ or ‘U-Value’ but nowadays, the general public in the UK are seeing terminologies such as, ‘Whole House Approach’, ‘External Wall Insulation’ (EWI), ‘Internal Wall Insulation’ (IWI), ‘PAS 2035’ and ‘Retrofit’ as part of their everyday vocabulary.

What does it mean and why has it become so popular headline in our everyday lives?

Like-minded groups such as AECB, ASBP, CAT, STBA and the Architects Journal have admirably championed for the interrelated pathways of Retrofitting (better materials/products, more training et al) and more recently LETI published their formidable document, Climate Emergency Retrofit Guide which joins all of the dots of what can be a very confusing landscape.

Our friends, the Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN) have set up the campaign ‘Households Declare’ and in a very simple to understand, and concise way, spell out to the government that we need to do more in enabling ‘retrofit’ as part of the construction industry’s outlook in the built environment.

We, at SBUK support this, and with ACAN ask you to declare a climate emergency for your homes.

Declare HERE

building the future studio 3 arts community centre

The School of Natural Building are working with Studio 3 Arts to build an extension on their community centre.

Designed by architects company, Citizens Design Bureau and built by GPF Lewis and Wellspring Architecture, this is a transformation in London’s Barking and Dagenham. Read more here

Not only is the work carried out using low carbon materials including strawbales but a course next week with the School of Natural Building – 23rd to 27th August – will cover practical aspects of strawbale building: how to dress and customise bales, notching, loadbearing and infill techniques, compression of the wall, and much more. See here to enrol on the course

This project demonstrates the power of public sector partnering: in making change for the local community through Government; local statutory bodies and interdepartmental support and resources – in essence, everything we worked with UPSTRAW to deliver

Yesterday the bales were delivered – the work and fun now begins!

ESBG 2021: Feedback Form

How did we do? Click image below to fill out quick survey.

Thank you!

architects climate action network | natural material masterclass | straw

A panel of expert speakers met last night to present the benefits of constructing with straw, the data behind the resources and the heritage of this natural building material in Architects Climate Action Network‘s (ACAN) Masterclass for Straw

Barbara Jones

A captive audience, comprising of practioners from the built environment to keenly interested people were treated to a two hour session of education and fun!

Craig White
Cypren Edmunds

The effectiveness of this material has been hotly debated over the years, misunderstood and misrepresented. Backed up with science, the audience listened to the statistics to support its robustness and debated its relevancy.

John Butler
Dana Olarescu

Engaging conversation about community bonding to delivery of healthy alternatives for the domestic and public sector, heightend the audience’s awareness to building with strawbales and straw panels.

Joe Duirwyn
Phil Christopher

The event also acted as a launch for tonight’s start of European Strawbale Gathering 2021 (ESBG 2021).

SBUK members Barbara Jones, Phil Christopher, Joe Duirwyn and Cypren Edmunds are presenting at this festival with other European organisations of the European StrawBale Association (ESBA).

If you missed the start of ESBG 2021, there were some spectacular tours of properties in Poland, Germany, Switzerland and Estonia

Estonia
Estonia

Don’t miss out tomorrow or Sunday – Click on the picture above for tickets now!

the bale house

Wow! Check out at the latest video update of the ‘Bale House’ by the Constrawtium team!

is there enough straw to build with?

John Butler has been digging away in the vaults of Government data and statistics to ascertain the answer to one of the most often asked questions we receive, “Is there enough straw to build”?

The figures are interestingly optimistic (we shan’t spoilt it for you!).

Dig in and sift through this very vital piece of work

UP STRAW Zotero database

Great news!

The partners of UP STRAW have collated, through the ‘Zoreto’ platform, an open source database of free reference management tools that allows the user to manage bibliographical data and documents such as websites, videos, scientific articles, books and PDFs.

This will cover the regulatory aspects, construction techniques, technical and environmental performance, fire security and acoustics and scientific publications of building with Strawbales or Straw panels from around the world.

Enjoy your search here

Rising Damp

This is not a homage to the popular British sitcom, but a brilliantly sharp (and witty!) conversation with Ben Kerslake of Carrington Lime and Jeffrey Hart’s Building Sustainability Podcast

Through his initial foray as a roofer, to the lessons learnt as a lime plasterer, we hear how Ben has honed his craft as a tradesman and, diligently educates as a course tutor.

Listen, learn and enjoy: Treating damp with Lime Plaster – Ben Kerslake – BS042

Holy Trinity’s Airtightness testing

airtightness

Last year, SBUK member Dr Judith Thornton wrote a paper on Airtightness, of which we referenced here: https://strawbalebuildinguk.com/airtightness-and-natural-building-materials-by-judith-thornton

Richard Dormandy has led the work on Holy Trinity Tulse Hill’s strawbale building, the ‘Neigbourhood Hub’, and you can watch The Holy Trinity ‘airtightness’ videos here:

  1. Airtightness Part 1 What it is and Why it Matters
  2. Airtightness Part 2 What it Happens in an Airtightness Test
  3. Airtightness Part 3: Achieving and Managing an Airtight Building
  4. Airtightness Part 4: Getting Our Straw Bale Building Airtight

THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF CONSTRUCTION

A network of architects and built environment professionals met tonight to see the unveiling of The Carbon Footprint Of Construction.

Led by ACAN – Architects Climate Action Network – over 300 delegates participated in tonight’s launch, listening to expert Speakers and colloborating in workshop/Breakout rooms.

If you want to help to decarbonise the construction sector, here is what you can do:

  1. Read the Report
  2. Sign the petition
  3. Send the Briefing Report to your MP

sbuk’s video presentation from NSBRC’s Virtual Building Systems Workshop – Saturday 12th December 2020

SBUK’s Treasurer and Huff and Puff proprietor, Phil Christopher, took part in the (NSBRC) National Self Build and Renovation Centre‘s Virtual Building Systems Workshop in December (2020).

A well executed presentation drawing in all of the topical points in ‘strawbuilding’ construction including, ‘load-bearing’, in-fill’, ‘straw-panels’, ‘fabric first’, ‘cradle to cradle’, ‘fire-resistance’, ‘retrofit’, ‘standards’, ‘wall finishing’, and more!

His 30 minute presentation is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVJxTyQvzk0

You can see the whole programme of workshops on the link below at the bottom of the page (Building-Systems-Workshop-Recording-Links-Dec-2020)

ecobuild 2016

SBUK’s members were at this year’s Ecobuild. Together with ‘Natural Building Materials’ groups we displayed and demonstrated the beauty and benefits of constructing with low carbon products.

How easy is it to find and use natural building materials? riba interview with Janna lann/grain architecture

Here is a great article by RIBA on natural building materials featuring Grain Architecture’s Janna Laan Lomas.

Janna will be presenting at RIBA’s online event: Guerilla Tactics, 9th – 11th November. Programme details are HERE and tickets are HERE

A project of Grain Architecture‘s is below, built in collaboration SBUK members Joe Duirwyn (Hartwyn) and Jeffrey Hart